Utility Advisory Committee finally comes to life

Created some 10 years after the city approved an ordinance for its formation, the Utility Advisory Committee (UAC) is finally functional.

It’s clear that it will take a few meetings before the seven-member group is briefed on the many utility-related issues the city now faces.

During its first meeting on Tuesday, the committee addressed several housekeeping issues before City Manager Mark Dombroski, who said he will act as primary staff person for the UAC. Dombroski presented a list of seven projects the committee will address as it winds its way through the city’s bureacracy.

Dombroski gave priority to three projects currently under way to one degree or another: the Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) upgrade; Winslow Way Reconstruction; and the Utility Rate Study.

When Public Works Deputy Director Lance Newkirk gave an update on WWTP, Andy Maron, who has been appointed UAC chair, questioned what kind of involvement the committee would have on the project since it is part of a lawsuit filed by a citizens group, Ratepayers Alliance.

“And what do you want us to do about it,” he quipped. RPA’s litigation includes a complaint against the city not having a UAC.

Dombroski said the council may have a question or two the UAC could address concerning the project.

Dombroski also said the Utility Rate Study may be referred to the UAC before it goes back to the consultant currently involved in its creation.

Newkirk and Dombroski said the city’s Sewer Plan, which was last done in 1994, has become a priority because of the recent failure of the sewer main that runs along Eagle Harbor’s shoreline.

“The immediacy is there and we’ll want to get an RFP out to consultants sooner than later – probably sometime during the next 35 days.”

Newkirk said the goal would be to get a capital project budgeted sometime next year.

While the UAC certainly will serve the wishes of the council and its committees, council member Chris Snow said that with the public attending UAC meetings, the advisory group should be able to identify priority issues for the council, too.

Council member Barry Peters, who is head of the Finance and Personnel Committee, said the UAC should prove to be invaluable in seeking insight on many specific utility-related issues.

Tentatively the UAC plans to meet twice a month.

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